Canucks fell 3-2 to Edmonton on Sunday night
G: Boeser (11), Leivo (4)
Jacob Markstrom made 25 saves
1) The Vancouver Canucks didn't play poorly on Sunday night. They just didn't have a way to defend two of the top players in the National Hockey League. Leon Draisaitl scored a pair of power play goals and Connor McDavid had a pair of assists as the Oilers top guns outproduced the Canucks best players. At 5-on-5, the Canucks more than held their own. But Loui Eriksson took a pair of penalties and the Oilers made him -- and in turn the Canucks -- pay both times. On Saturday, the Canucks won the special teams battle. A night later, it was the Oilers turn. The Canucks power play has won them hockey games. On Sunday night, Edmonton's potent power play was up to the challenge. The game resembled opening night at Rogers Arena in many ways. The Oilers overcame a 2-1 Canucks lead in that game and won by the very same score they did on Sunday night. The other similarity was that McDavid and Draisaitl were the best players on October 2nd as they were on December 1st.
2) The Canucks looked like their their two-week long road odyssey caught up to them in the third period. That's not an excuse, it's just the reality of reaching the end of a brutal stretch of the schedule. Draisaitl's second of the night gave Edmonton a 3-2 lead just 46 into the final period. Over the next nine minutes, the Oilers outshot the Canucks 9-2 and Vancouver didn't really author many Grade A scoring chances in a push to get the equalizer. According to naturalstattrick.com, the Oilers held an 11-5 edge in third period scoring chances and a 4-0 advantage in high-danger chances. The Canucks drew just two Edmonton penalties on the night -- and both came in the first period. When Josh Leivo scored to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead, for a brief moment it looked like the home team had come alive. The Canucks only lead of the night lasted exactly 1:45 before Draisaitl evened the game at two.
3) Elias Pettersson went pointless over the weekend. It's the first time since November 8th and 10th that he has been held off the scoresheet in consecutive games. The Canucks were able to get past the Oilers on Saturday without production from Pettersson. But on a night when the Oilers top players were the difference makers, Pettersson just didn't seem to have his magic. It wasn't from a lack of trying. He played a lot -- 22:39 on the night -- and was on the ice for the Canucks first goal of the hockey game. He just wasn't able to have his usual impact on the outcome. Those nights have been rare this season, but Pettersson has been held without a point in three of the team's last four games now.
4) Eyebrows were raised when Travis Green decided to come right back with Jacob Markstrom on consecutive nights with travel in between. Markstrom was solid in Edmonton on Saturday night and the coach elected to ride the hot hand into Sunday's game. I didn't have a huge problem with the decision. The Canucks didn't lose on Sunday because of goaltending. Markstrom really had no chance on any of the Edmonton goals that beat him. He carried a personal three game win streak into the game and hadn't prior to Saturday hadn't played since the previous Saturday afternoon in Washington. So he hadn't had a heavy workload over the week. Sure, he missed a start on Wednesday in Pittsburgh due to an illness, but after a day off Thursday was a full participant at practice on Friday and then played well on Saturday. So the sickness didn't seem to be an issue of any kind over the weekend. The most-significant thing for me in the coach's decision came prior to Sunday's game when Travis Green met the media and explained his decision by saying: 'we're going back to our starting goalie.' As well as Thatcher Demko has played for the Canucks this season, that response tells you that the coach draws a distinction between his two netminders and that while some may see the goalie tandem as a 1 and 1A situation, it seems clear in the coach's mind that he has a definite starter and Demko is the back-up. That's important to remember as the Canucks work to a decision on Jacob Markstrom's future with the club.
5) Sunday was the Canucks first home game in more than two weeks, so fans can be excused if they had forgotten how things have gone for the home team at Rogers Arena recently. The loss to the Oilers was the team's third straight setback in front of the home fans. They lost 4-2 to Dallas and 5-4 in overtime to Colorado before the road trip and 3-2 to Edmonton. Roll things back a little further and a November 12th win against Nashville stands alone as the only victory for the Canucks in their last six at home (1-3-2). The game against the Oilers opened a stretch of 12 of 15 games at home between December 1st and January 4th. This is a critical stretch for the hockey club that managed to keep its head above water with a road-heavy schedule through the first two months of the season. The Canucks need to reverse their recent fortunes on home ice. They need wins, they need them in bunches and they need them in a hurry. They now have more losses at home than they have wins this season (5-3-3). At season's end, anything close to a .500 record at Rogers Arena won't be good enough. To make the playoffs they're likely going to need 25 home wins and 20 on the road. That will give them 90 points and then they'll need to cobble together a few single points from overtime and shootout losses to put them in the mid-90s. They missed an opportunity to start this stretch off on the right foot Sunday. They can't afford to miss many opportunities over the next month.